DURHAM — “The Book of Mormon” musical carried on as scheduled at the Durham Performing Arts Center, but little else as snow, then ice, then more snow covered the city Wednesday and Thursday.
Looking ahead, city administratorscancelled an all-day Friday retreat with the City Council to start planning next year’s budget, and county commissioners Chairman Michael Page had extended Durham County’s “state of emergency” until noon Friday.
At 1:43 p.m., Mayor Bill Bell said he had extended the city’s state of emergency until 12:30 p.m. Friday.
“The biggest thing is really trying to encourage people to stay off the streets,” Bell said, as snow continued falling heavily in his south-Durham neighborhood as well as near Duke Regional Hospital in the north.
Besides risking their own safety, drivers putting vehicles on the streets interferes with the city’s snow-plowing and salt-spreading to efforts, said city spokeswoman Amy Blalock.
City public-works crews had finished clearing primary roads and intersections by 11 a.m. Thursday, but had to start over since snow began falling again around noon.
“All primaries were passable as of noon; but that will not be the case given the amount of snow that is now coming down,” said public-works Director Marvin Williams.
“We will continue with plowing operations and salt application on the primaries, bridge and emergency routes. If the snow stops later this evening, we will finish up primary roads and go back to secondary streets.”
Williams also asked the public to stay off the roads.
More than 200 traffic accidents were reported Wednesday within the city limits. There were 208 accidents involving only property damage and 31 traffic accidents involving injuries, according to police spokeswoman Kammie Michael. None of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.
The Durham Emergency Communications Center also received 129 calls about traffic hazards, which mostly involved vehicles stuck in travel lanes. They also received 113 abandoned vehicle calls. Ninety-five percent of the accident, traffic hazard and abandoned vehicle calls came in between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. yesterday.
Durham police officers have been checking abandoned vehicles to make sure that no one is stranded in a vehicle. They have checked on Interstate 85, Interstate 40, Durham Freeway, U.S. 70, N.C. 54 and N.C. 55. Officers are tying yellow ribbons on the mirrors of vehicles that have been checked.
Officers are not having vehicles towed right now unless they are in a travel lane or are causing a major traffic hazard. Drivers whose vehicles were abandoned within the city limits and towed are asked to call the Durham Police Department’s main desk at (919) 560-4427. For more information about removing abandoned cars, please go to bit.ly/1ex2N7n
As of 1:45 p.m., Durham County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Paul Sherwin said only three traffic accidents had been reported Thursday, after 52 crashes were reported between noon Wednesday and 7:30 a.m. Thursday. Most were “minor fender-benders” and none resulted in serious injury.
“I think people are listening to officials and simply staying home, which is a big help. Things may pick up later this evening when everything re-freezes, but hopefully not many people will be out,” Sherwin said.
Sheriff’s personnel assisted 11 stranded motorists Thursday morning, most in the Oak Grove area of eastern Durham County, according to Sherwin.
Along with the crashes, the Sheriff’s office reported 124 abandoned vehicles, 37 stranded motorists and one downed tree by Thursday morning.
Once snow began, sledding-site advisories quickly appeared on neighborhood email lists, with regular surface reports for a popular steep hill on Anita Street in the Duke Park neighborhood between Interstate 85 and downtown. As snow continued, requests for kids’ gloves and snow shovels began appearing.
Posts about power outages began in the early hours of Thursday from the Watts Hospital-Hillandale neighborhood, where most customers’ power had been restored by noon. Shortly afterward, though, Trinity Park residents between the Duke East Campus and downtown were reporting electricity out by 2:45 p.m., and the Duke Regional Hospital area was out for two hours during the afternoon.
The email lists also carried brisk traffic from Wednesday afternoon onward about “Book of Mormon” tickets, with some ticket holders seeking to swap for later dates or offering theirs for sale at below face value rather than venture onto the slick roads.
DPAC continued to operate on schedule with the touring Broadway hit, which has sold out all performances, according to the theater’s web site, http://bit.ly/1fojeoP.
Attempts to reach DPAC management were not successful, but according to the theater’s weather policy (http://bit.ly/1btdVb9), “Local weather or road conditions that may affect an individual guest or guests from attending are not cause for cancellation.”
Although DPAC’s stated policy is, “Refunds are not issued if the show is performed as scheduled,” in an email to city community development Director Reginald Johnson DPAC manager Bob Klaus said refunds would be offered to ticket holders who did not attend Wednesday night’s show. About 700 ticket holders did not show up.
At the Carolina Theatre, a concert by Sharon Jones and the DAP Kings also was planned to go on as scheduled Thursday night.